Developers: Tango Gameworks
Publishers: Bethesda Softworks
Plot: Detective Sebastian Castellanos is called to a mass homicide in a hospital, putting him in the firing range of the impossibly strong and malevolent apparition, Ruvik.
The Evil Within is a little bit of a mess.
Advertised as the scariest game of the year, being released with Halloween just around the corner, The Evil Within seemed pretty convinced that, until gamers played this game, they didn’t truly understand the genre of horror. The trailers depicted all sorts of strange creatures lurking around asylums and hospitals. It almost seemed too scary to play. However, it turned out anyone with these thoughts in mind were just setting themselves up for disappointment. The Evil Within wants to be scary, but doesn’t quite know how to be. Four levels in and it becomes very clear that the game-plan is to throw everything perceived as scary into one game and hope that something sticks. Spiders? Yep. Masked men? Do it! Mannequins that don’t actually do anything for the entire game’s running time? Give that man a pay rise! Yes, sometimes one of those ideas slip through the cracks and works. When you are running from your life against ‘something’ behind you, then the blood does get pumping. But for the most part, none of the Evil Within’s ideas truly become terrifying in the same way Outlast could be, because Castellanos is armed and can fight back. Yes, Dead Space got its way around this problem, but The Evil Within gives up on the horror side of things far too easily and falls back to action. Occasionally a new scary monster pops up and you spend a few beats, fleeing, helpless from it. Far too early, the game decides to give you the right weapon to fight back and then that scary villain evolves into something else to shoot. This happens more than once; in fact, it pretty much happens every single time. It makes it worse that Castellanos is everyone’s idea of that Gaming Protagonist 101: white, handsome male that gets pummelled by an evil brain monster and still has a quip waiting, when he pulls himself to his feet.
The moment you click onto the fact that the game is going to be this is when the commonplace baddie is introduced. Yes, you guessed it: zombies. OK, they are not quite zombies in the traditional sense. Men hollowed out from endless experimentation and psychological torturing, these poor people turn to madness and allow Ruvik to turn them into puppets for his traps. No one uses the word, zombies. But, they shuffle towards you, groan in deathly whispers and are often depicted as dead bodies reanimating to kill you; I am going to go ahead and call them zombies. The game doesn’t have to use these zombies, but it runs out of ideas of how to connect the player from scary moment A to scary moment B. The answer is to throw loads of zombies and mini-bosses in your way, turning the game into a couple of jump scares, tied together with shoot-outs with dead people. And the Evil Within almost saves itself, because the action is actually quite good. While it isn’t scary, the ammo conservation is tight, meaning that several of the fights turn into a tense showdown, where you need to make every bullet count. That will either be frustrating or fun depending on the gamer, but at the very least, the game intends for that to be the effect. During the second half of the game, you have given up on this game scaring you and settle into enjoying quite a decent shooter, even if it isn’t too different from other action games.
So, I was finishing the game and had the review pretty much confirmed in my head. No, it’s not scary, but I found other enjoyable aspects in it. A shame and definitely not the Game of the Year it was suggested to be, but I have played a lot worse. The best thing about it is that the story is really interesting. Mystery is layered upon mystery. When the game gets stale, it is that burning desire to get to the bottom of this nightmare that keeps the player fighting onwards. Not only is the main story gripping and tense, there are little sub-plots going on in the background. Castellanos and his ex-wife have a dark past. A ghostly nurse is connected to events, but it isn’t made clear how. Then the game ends. Abruptly. Nothing is answered. It is one of those moments where you are staring at the closing credits screen and just being unable to comprehend how the game can be as cruel as to just pull the plug on the story, just when it was getting interesting. Unforgivable.
Final Verdict: On the whole, The Evil Within is a bit ‘hit and miss’, but when it was hyped up this much, there are much more misses than hits.